While Santa's elves have been chipping away at their annual mega-assignment, members of The Garden Club of Palo Alto have been knitting, baking, felting silk scarves and potting paper whites -- all to prepare for the upcoming Holiday Marketplace.
Throughout the year, garden club members have volunteered to create the products that will fill the Fellowship Hall and courtyard at First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto on Dec. 6.
One group, organized by Kim Chansler, invited more than 50 women to learn to knit so they could make more than 300 dishcloths from eco-friendly cotton yarn -- a replacement for kitchen sponges.
"These are better than sponges because they don't harbor bacteria. They're made of washable cotton, they're biodegradable. And, you can put them in your compost pile when you're done," Chansler said.
The group met in late October to package the brightly colored dishcloths, in colors to match one's kitchen or red and green for the holidays, as a set of three: perfect as a hostess gift or for oneself, she added.
Back in November 2013, Chansler did a presentation to the club about the evils of triclosan, a chemical in most sponges that is both a pesticide and a killer of bacteria. The chemical will soon be banned, she said.
"They don't stink," garden club member Sue Beebe of Menlo Park said of the triclosan-treated sponges, "but the chemical is dispersed, and water treatment plants can't get it out. It kills crustaceans, which the fish feed on."
Creating the eco-friendly alternative to sponges fits right in with The Garden Club of Palo Alto's mission, which focuses on gardening, horticulture and conservation, Chansler said.
"The club attracts people who want to do the right thing, horticulturally," Beebe added.
Each dishcloth is a small work of art, with the beginning knitters sticking to a basic garter stitch, but perhaps with a contrasting stripe. The more advanced created diagonal patterns; others picked a different pattern of stitches for each dishcloth. Most made their contributions at home, but many met for a workshop three or four times for the camaraderie and "to share ideas," Carol Malcolm, from Palo Alto, noted.
And the dishcloths last a long time, Chansler said. She recommended rinsing them out and hanging on the faucet to dry overnight. Kathy Schubin of Menlo Park, suggested popping them into the microwave for a quicker dry.
Reo Haynes of Palo Alto, who described herself as more of a beginning knitter, was putting the finishing touches on a more advanced diagonal pattern.
"It's become quite addictive," she said.
Other products created by the garden club include bird cards/Victoriana, food items (toffee, fudge, honey, caramels and biscotti), potted paper whites (Narcissus papyraceus), stockings/mini dogs, pine cone bird feeders, felted silk scarves, wreaths, gift bags with holiday scenes, kissing balls, mini cypress trees, birch candles, planted baskets, bell wreaths and garden art (stepping stones, wire pillows and decoupage framed art). A special section will be devoted to donated silver, crystal and porcelain.
Proceeds from the Holiday Marketplace boutique go to fund garden-club projects, which include upgrading the native, drought-resistant plantings at First Presbyterian Church (where the club meets); proving plantings and irrigation near the play structure in front of the Children's Health Council; planting heritage camellias at Gamble Garden; printing a self-guided bilingual interpretive tour app for Environmental Volunteers' Eco Center; and printing pocket guides in English and Spanish on the care and pruning of trees for Canopy.
If You Go:
What: Holiday Marketplace
When: Saturday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Where: First Presbyterian Church, 1140 Cowper St., Palo Alto
Highlights: Wreaths, planted baskets, garden art, kissing balls, bird feeders, plus knitted dishcloths, homemade food items, gift bags and cards, and more
Benefits: The Garden Club of Palo Alto
Info: gardenclubofpaloalto.org or Susan Beebe at 650-269-9011